The 2013 holiday season has officially begun and Americans are looking for more deals than ever as the economy slowly moves toward recovery.

Online sales are estimated to make up nearly half of the projected $600 billon that will be spent in the next several weeks with many shoppers interested in products by Samsung, Apple and Amazon. In fact, online customers have spent over $1 billion dollars during Black Friday alone.

Traditional shoppers also spent a considerable sum during this year’s black Friday’s sale will an estimated 22 million visitors to Walmart alone. Other top retailers included eBay, Best Buy, Kohl’s and Nordstrom.

The National Retail Federation estimates that the average shopper will spend over $700 during the holidays this year. The period between November 29 and December 31 will mark the time of year when business make their largest profits.

But while many retailers will be enjoying a successful holiday season, millions of impoverished individuals will continue to be in want of everyday items such as food, water and shelter.

The Millennium Challenge Account supports organizations around the world that are committed to improving the standard of living for those in poverty ridden areas. The amount of money spent on gifts for Christmas this year could single handedly pay for 2/3 of the Millennium budget.

If every American donated a small portion of their holiday shopping funds, world hunger could be resolved in our lifetime. The yearly shortage to end world hunger is an estimated $30 billion, less than 10% of the amount of money spent in American stores over the next four weeks.

In short, if world hunger and other social problems can be resolved in as little as 30 days, what are we waiting for?

Jasmine D. Smith

Sources: Reuters, USA Today
Photo: NY Mag

In an American tradition lasting a few years short of a century, the day after Thanksgiving has heralded one event above all others: Black Friday. Although not coined as such until the 1960s, the last weekend in November for millions of Americans now represents long lines, cheap goods, and exceptionally surly customer service.

Last year, a reported 247 million shoppers took part in the seasonal shopping extravaganza, spending $423 each, approximately $59.1 billion in total. Not to be outdone, the National Retail Federation projects $602.1 billion in holiday sales this year (From Thanksgiving to Christmas), up from $579.5 billion in 2012.

T.V.s are important, especially when they’re on sale for a limited time only. And the joy of scoring the Big Bang Theory DVD from Wal-Mart at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day cannot be understated.  Unfortunately, Black Friday affects more than just the endorphins of the stalwart shopper. As the truly devoted consumer grits their teeth and fights for every last deal, the plight of Typhoon Haiyan survivors diminishes in the wake of the bustling holiday season.

Although Americans are noted for their generosity when it comes to international disaster relief, the amount of spending achieved on this one day highlights how much more could be done.

According to, in 2012 individuals donated around $223 billion to charities, comprising 72% of the $316.23 billion annual total. An entire year of donations makes up just under 40% of the total spent on Black Friday alone.

Instead of purchasing that ultimate box set collection for dad, Magic Bullet for the college student, or the absolutely essential new PlayStation 3 game for yourself, try diverting that potential spending toward charitable organizations dedicated to aid.

For perspective, as of September, a 25 kilogram bag of locally imported rice was priced by the National Food Authority as 1,880 Philippine Pesos, which converts to less than one U.S. quarter. For the amount of money expected to be spent this year, an astronomical 2.4 trillion bags of rice could be purchased for the Philippines.

For considerably less effort than it takes to brave the crowds this weekend, shoppers could divert funds to a charity of their choice. The Red Cross offers an SMS service where $10 is automatically donated to disaster relief every time someone texts REDCROSS to 90999. Every time you’re waiting in an hour-long line in the next few days, think of the good you could be doing, even from the comfort of your warm couch.

– Emily Bajet

Sources: Red Cross, Statistic Brain,, Charity Navigator
Photo: Fleet Feet Sports

The restaurant business in America has been growing rapidly in the last couple decades.  Total restaurant sales exceed $660 billion. Among all the cuisines, steak dinner is the most popular. However, steak dinner is getting more and more expensive.

There are a wide variety of steak dinners depending on the restaurant and the type of steak. A steak can cost as low as $14 in a regular restaurant such as IHOP, Denny’s or a local restaurant. A steak dinner in an upscale restaurant can cost up to hundreds of dollars. “At the Michael Jordan Steak house in New York, for example, a dinner of shrimp cocktail [$16.50], New York Strip [$38.50], hash browns [$7.50], and creamed spinach [$8.50], plus dessert, wine, tax and tip easily tops $100 per person.” Overall, a cheap steak dinner will cost $28 dollar, and a traditional steak dinner can cost up to a couple hundred dollars.

In the world, 660 million people live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million live on less than $1 a day. Feeding a family in a third world country only costs $8.50. With an average steak dinner, a family will have enough food for almost 3 months. Steak dinners are delicious and fulfilling, but why not save them as treat for a special occasion? With so many people in the world in need, diverting funds  to nonprofits is an easy way to help millions.

Phong Pham

Sources: The AWL, Slate, Restaurant, Global Issues
Photo: The Sun

For the world’s privileged, the Christmas season means mistletoe and hot chocolate, evergreen conifer trees with glistening ornaments, piles of presents and stockings hung on the fireplace mantle. In fact, Christmas is the largest global market stimulus due to an astounding proliferation in sales that account for almost a fifth of the retail industry’s annual sales.  In the United States alone, consumers collectively spend a whopping $469 billion during the holiday season with the average family allocating roughly $800 purely to holiday indulgences and travel.

However, a substantial portion of the world’s population is deprived of such blissful and lavish holiday revelry. In many areas of the world, Christmas is not celebrated as a joyful commercial and religious event comprised of frantic trips to the local mall and family bonding; it marks just another day of struggle and survival. Even in America, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, poverty plagues about 45 million people.

Due to this, many organizations provide methods in which individuals are given the opportunity to help impoverished families and communities during the holiday season. For example, since its founding in 1993, Operation Christmas Child has given gifts to over 100 million impoverished children in approximately 130 countries worldwide. In order to make a donation to Operation Christmas Child, individuals are instructed to fill any durable shoebox with child-geared gifts and a $7 shipping donation.

Furthermore, Alternate Gifts International also allows people to lend aid during the holiday season. Unlike Operation Christmas Child, AGI focuses on distributing gifts such as nonperishable food, shelter, vegetation, livestock, and medical supplies. All of which promotes sustainability and community health. To facilitate the donation process, a catalog of needed resources are listed for prospective contributors to choose from.

Much like AGI, UNICEF released a poignant campaign urging consumers to purchase their Christmas cards and gifts online through UNICEF with the tagline of “we go where Santa doesn’t.” According to this endeavor, the purchase of each gift goes towards providing life-saving items, such as mosquito nets and water kits, to impoverished children. Hollywood actor and goodwill ambassador Orlando Bloom supports the campaign by stating “I like the fact that [it] does not simply provide people with the humanitarian aid, but also elaborates on the tools to solve problems and improve the life of children and women.”

Although simply donating to these charitable organizations provides gifts and assistance to communities in need, staying informed and enlightening others about global poverty is also an additional, albeit less direct, way to give back during this holiday season. In doing so, poverty is pushed to the forefront of national agendas.

Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: Statista, Last Throes, Investopedia

Beyond the messages of goodwill and the narratives of birth and rebirth, Christmas inevitably turns into an Olympics of materialism and consumerism. For now, there are only the hard questions on which to ruminate: What are the top ten gadgets we cannot live without this holiday season? What is the Cost of Christmas?

A Gallup Poll released November 14 revealed that the average amount an American plans to spend on Christmas presents this year totals to about $704. In 2012, Americans individually spent about $764 on average. To put it all in perspective, a Think Progress info-graphic revealed in 2012 that the amount Americans spend on Christmas (about $25 billion) is roughly equal to the cost of permanently ending homelessness in the United States ($20 billion).

The amount that Americans spend on Christmas presents and decorations entirely eclipses the $3.2 billion that the World Food Programme calculates is needed per year to feed all 66 million school-age children living in extreme poverty around the world. The American Christmas budget also dwarfs the annual budgets of the UNHCR, the World Food Programme, the UNDP and UNICEF combined.

Only $60 billion is needed to end world poverty.

The message here is that the extraordinarily privileged people of United States are entirely capable of leading the crusade against global poverty. Within the span of only one month of the year dedicated to holiday shopping, Americans spend enough money to permanently abolish global poverty by 50%.

While Christmastime may mean scrambling to the tree to unwrap the new Playstation 4, Xbox One and Apple products, perhaps it is time to additionally consider that that money can buy lasting world peace and equality—that these are gifts that are worth the investment and within our budget.

Malika Gumpangkum
Sources: TIME, Forbes, Business Insider, NY Times, Think Progress, Oxfam
Photo: Telegraph

Living in one of the wealthiest nations in the world ideally means full-access to core tenants of liberty – democracy and freedom. Indeed, American citizens exercise their freedom in a multitude of manners, quite notably exercising their freedom to consume.

Women, in particular, dole out about $370 per year, adding up to approximately $25,000 spent on footwear in a lifetime. Additionally, the average woman owns up to 469 pairs of shoes within a 67 year period, averaging about seven pairs per year.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $146 is an adequate budget in order to feed a family of four a healthy diet per week. Thus, the amount of money that a women, on average, spends a year on shoes is enough to feed a family of four for almost three weeks. Furthermore, the amount of money a woman invests in footwear over the course of her lifetime could have sustained a family of four for 171 weeks, or over three years.

The amount of money that Western women spend on shoes could also have been used to purchase a first-hand car or invested in higher-education. A study by Mintel indicates that men surprisingly spend more money on shoes than women do. Why is this? Although women may purchase more shoes, Colin Chapman of The Guardian decrees that “[…] men’s fashion items are often investments — a good suit, a great overcoat, and a decent pair of shoes have never been cheap to buy, but were built to last season upon season.” Therefore, this statistic does not imply that men buy more than women, but that perhaps men are more concerned with higher-priced durability as opposed to quantity.

Collectively, Americans annually spend about $100 billion on shoes, jewelry, and watches, while $99 billion is allocated towards obtaining a higher education. Furthermore, Westerners annually allocate $100 billion toward purchasing shoes, while the United States designates $50 billion for foreign aid – half of the amount that people spend on footwear yearly.

Perhaps Western spending tactics on footwear gives a glimpse into the massive global wealth inequality that is very much extant in modern times. While 50% of the world survives on less than $2.50 a day to garner food, shelter, clothing, and medical assistance, Westerners collectively spend billions of dollars on luxuries such as footwear and accessories.

Phoebe Pradham

Sources: World Bank, Huffington Post, Psychology Today, The Guardian, Glamour, USA Today, Sodahead, TIME
Photo: Web Stock Pro

Perhaps it’s time to start looking where your money goes, and even further where your money could be going. According to Accounting Principal’s 2012 survey, the average American worker spends more than $20 a week on coffee, adding up to a yearly average of around $1,092. For java-lovers, this may seem like a hard habit to kick. However, by even simply making your own coffee at home, you can both save calories and spend that money in a more useful way – combating global poverty.

If more Americans skipped their morning Starbucks and instead donated that money, two things could happen. 1. American obesity would significantly decline 2. Global poverty would significantly decline. Of the roughly 315 million people in the United States, if simply 30 million (about 1 out of 10 people) put their coffee money toward combating global poverty, it could be entirely eliminated.

You heard correctly. The United Nations estimates that it would take nearly $30 billion a year to put an end to world hunger. Therefore, this small and easy adjustment could save the lives of millions worldwide. Is your cup of coffee really worth more than the lives of people everywhere?

There are many ways to start taking steps to make a change toward combating world hunger. While going cold turkey and saving the money for donation is definitely an option, there are other alternatives as well. A basic Keurig Coffee Brewer costs about $120, and including the price of the coffee that goes in them (an extra $180 a year), you can still have your coffee and save the difference between buying coffee every day. While the total is slightly less, it gives coffee-lovers an option to still enjoy their brew but also fight for a good cause.

You may think your contribution won’t make a difference- but it does. Talk to friends, family and encourage them to give up buying a daily cup of java and instead save the money to donate to poverty-groups. This way, we can save the world, one coffee been at a time.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: ConsumeristBorgen Project, LA Times
Photo: Consumer Channel Dynamics

With the release of Microsoft’s Xbox One the most recent era of next-gen gaming is fully upon us. Following Nintendo’s release of the Wii U, and Sony’s release of the PlayStation 4, Microsoft released its third generation of Xbox. Sporting cutting edge software and hardware, these consoles will allow gamers all over the world to play the most sophisticated modern gaming titles to their heart’s content.  And with the holiday season fast approaching, it seems everyone is clamoring to get their hands on one.

The cost of an Xbox One here in the U.S. is about $500. But with the limited amount of Xbox’s available at release not everyone will be able to buy a machine in-store before Christmas. As is usually the case, individuals who absolutely must have one can find a heavily marked up Xbox One on places like Amazon, Craigslist and Ebay. The costs are variable but can range from $600 to $1,250 as sellers range from opportunists to outright extortionists. So, all told the average cost for a Christmas morning console with one game is right around $800.

Over one million units of the Xbox One were sold in the first 24 hours after it launched. And while the Xbox has different price points for the 13 different regions it was released in, the cost is either the same or greater. Thus it’s safe to assume that consumers have spent approximately $800 million on Xbox Ones to date.  Nearly a billion spent on entertainment.

By contrast, the cost of helping rebuild homes in the Philippines is $10.25 million. Habitat for Humanity is taking donations now in an effort to help rebuild homes that were devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan. They currently have raised nearly $200,000 of an estimated $10 million needed. According to their website that equates to 53 homes rebuilt.

Though 53 homes is a good start, one wonders why it takes so long to raise the funds for a project of this importance. Assuming one consumer per Xbox, it would take a donation of $10 from each Xbox One owner to finish raising funds and get this vital project underway. Moreover it would only take 24 hours if people felt as enthusiastically about playing video games as they do about saving lives.

This is not meant to dissuade people from purchasing an Xbox One. Rather, this Christmas when purchasing an Xbox One, try donating $10 dollars to help disaster relief as well.

Pedram Afshar

Sources: Bloomberg, Habitat For Humanity
Photo: CNet